Course Detail

ID 2141
Course ID EES88CEE
Course Name Existentialism eng8
Years Active 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
Terms Active 2
On Course Selection Form No
Course Placement No
Special Permission Course No
Credits Awarded 1.0
Retakeable No
Rules Fulfilling
Eligibility Rule

Additional Course Information

Additional Information for Course Exceptions Required? No

Existentialism is a single-semester selective that stresses fervent individualism in the face of an irrational universe.  It, along with Absurdism, uplifts the “rebel,” that individual who is courageous enough to rise above codified existence and live authentically.  These writers express themselves with a passionate sense of urgency: calling for a revolt against programmed behavior, exposing the dangers of falling into conformity and “everydayness,” and highlighting the importance of embracing one’s own subjective experience of existence.  These writers want us to deeply consider the nature and nuance of individual agency and free will.

Most existential / absurd writers write out of a profound experience, the sort of experience that they believe gives them a brief moment of insight into the human condition.  They often use fiction as a vehicle to relay this experience.  Our job is to find this fundamental revelation behind the text and try to relate to it.  You will often hear me ask, “What experience does the author reveal to us?  How does this connect to existentialism and to your own experiences?” 

Students can expect to read the following literary works: No Exit (1944) and The Flies (1943) by Jean-Paul Sartre, Notes from Underground (1865) by Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Stranger (1942) by Albert Camus, Waiting for Godot (1948) by Samuel Beckett, and The Trial (1914-1917) by Franz Kafka.  The course will also focus on the main philosophical essays of this discipline along with a few post-modern essays on ideology.

Students will be asked to complete a series of response papers that will hopefully culminate into a brief philosophical manifesto.  These response papers will be personal in nature and use textual references to propel the essay’s central argument.

The course is broken up into four main problems: 1) Other People, 2) Free Will and Ethical Action, 3) Ideology and Identity, 4) Nothingness and Happiness, or Absurdism. 

Some big questions the course will address include:

  • To what degree are we affected by other people?
  • Is free will an illusion? If so, what motivates ethical action?
  • Is true authenticity possible?
  • To what degree are our lives entrenched in ideology?
  • What makes happiness possible?
Syllabus There is no syllabus listed